THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Saturday, 15 April 2017

After 13 years

I can't remember the exact date I joined Buddies as a volunteer, but I know it was circa April 2004, roughly about the same time as the registration of The Buddies Society of Ipoh Perak. Prior to that Buddies of Ipoh was a unit under Perak Family Planning (now Perak Family Health) Association.

That means it has been 13 long years. Many things may have changed. If back then, about 70% of new infections were among injecting drug users, and less than 30% were sex-transmitted, nowadays it's the other way round. There has also been a drop in new reported cases. Back then, when our volunteers went to the hospital for clinic duty, we'd be kept busy with the new cases referred to us, sometimes 4 to 5 cases each clinic. Of late, we've had very few cases referred during clinic. Sometimes just one. Sometimes none at all. Very rare we'd have more than one. Which is of course a good thing, unless the "no case referred" was due to no-show by the newly diagnosed case.

Like any other new volunteers, I too, when I first joined, had to be a trainee under the supervision of a senior volunteer before they could confirm me. And once I was confirmed, one by one, I started getting new cases assigned to me. Being the only female Malay volunteer then (before me there was none), and with so many cases of HIV+ Malay ladies needing help, it was a no-brainer for the volunteers on clinic duty to assign me to cases involving Malay ladies, especially those staying in kampong areas.

I used to do a lot of home visits back then. For a few of the poor families, I went to visit them monthly without fail, as I knew they needed all the support they could get. Dealing with calls and messages from clients was almost a daily thing. Due to the long list of active clients that I had, I used to have a log book to note down all the calls and visits, so I could have a record to refer to.

But things have changed of late. I don't visit as frequent as I used to. Initially I wasn't too sure of the reason... maybe I was too busy with admin matters ever since I became the chairman... maybe the families I used to visit are already independent enough and no longer need as much attention... maybe it was because we've had a few more Malay ladies as volunteers to share the burden.

I do notice however, that the other volunteers in Buddies are also facing the same thing. They are no longer as busy with their HIV clients as they used to be. At least in my case, since I have a long list of clients, and I am also in charge of our Education Sponsorship for Children program, I still keep in touch with some of my clients, and I still do visit a few families from time to time.

Providing moral and emotional support to People Living with HIV and their families had always been the main objective of Buddies. It is still our main objective, but with lesser new cases referred, maybe we need to consider other objectives as well. We don't want our volunteers to get bored. We're planning to have a volunteer retreat this year, during which we hope to have a brainstorming session to discuss our past achievements and our plans for the future, in order to stay relevant.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thank you donors!

For the past month or so, many of my friends have been very generous with their donations for the families I'm dealing with in my voluntary work with Buddies. The funds under Buddies are rather limited, so the financial assistance under Buddies are mainly restricted to children's education (only for school-going children of our poor clients) and clients' welfare (approval given by discretion of the Board on a case to case basis).

Whenever any of my clients and/or their families need any additional help, I usually resort to outside sources. Like for example, remember the girl who was raped at 15 and stopped schooling after her PMR? The girl was previously under our Education Sponsorship Program, but she no longer qualified after she stopped going to school and went to a culinary college instead. But given her situation, her sponsor agreed to still help her out directly through me, not only for her further studies, but also additional expenses for her baby's needs. And when, against all odds, she scored excellent results in her SPM despite having to study on her own as a private candidate, quite a few joined in to share a reward for her as acknowledgment & encouragement. (I bought her a laptop for her to use for further studies.)

Likewise, when many of the other children, upon completion of their SPM, further their studies at higher learning institutions or vocational colleges, since expenses are no longer covered by the Buddies Children Education Fund or Sponsorship Program, many of my friends had been more than willing to help out, particularly for whatever amount needed during the initial registration.

Sometimes, there were clients who wanted to start small businesses as their source of income, but their main problem had always been the money required as initial capital, which they didn't have. Again, I usually resort to my friends (mainly via FB) for help (after my own assessment of the clients of course, I don't simply help them out without any kind of assessments). Today, for example, I went to send a brand new sewing machine (money from donors) to a client who badly needed it to continue sewing curtains as her source of income. All these while, she had been using an old mechanical sewing machine which she inherited from her late mother.

Knowing that my dealings with needy clients are always on-going, some friends donate from time to time without me having to ask for it. I usually use their donations for any immediate needs of the poor families I come across.

Oh, I must also specifically mention that I even have blog readers who had never even met me before, who had been donating without questions asked.

I don't even have to prepare pages and pages of reports to be given to these donors. For donors among my FB friends, they get their reports from my FB updates. For donors among blog readers, they get their reports from my blog postings (which makes me feel a bit guilty because I no longer update my blog as often as I used to, sorry!).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all you donors out there for making my voluntary work easier. I'm so lucky to somehow be connected to so many generous people.